Solidarity Activist Camp

International Youth Exchange ‘Solidarity Activist Camp’ KA1 Youth Mobility Project financed by Leargas under European Union Program Erasmus+ (#Solidactivist)

On October 11th-20th, 2016 youth exchange brought together 37 young people and group leaders from Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Italy and Turkey to Lithuania, Karsakiskis to work together on challenging racism, religious intolerance and islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, disablism and all forms of intolerance that can and is shared on-line and off-line; to explore counter narratives that fights the prevalence and tacit acceptance of hate speech to make activism for equality and inclusion more effective.

As the Internet has become a global space for creativity, communication and participation, the Internet users, and young people in particular, have a right to perceive their on-line interactions as benefiting from the freedoms of expression and information. However, reality tells us that the on-line world is also a space where the values of human rights are often ignored or violated. Among others, hate speech on-line has become a major form of human rights abuse, with very serious consequences for people, both on-line and off-line. Young people are directly concerned as victims, targets, active and passive agents. But hate speech affects all of society. ‘Hate speech, as defined by the Council of Europe, covers all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.’A growing link between anti-sectarianism and hate speech is evident with significant increases in racism, homophobia and Islamophobia being linked directly to anti-sectarianism. The sense of security in the space we all inhabit was shucked to extreme in 2015 and already in 2016.

No Hate Speech Movement (NHSM) believes that we underestimate the power and consequences of no hate speech and seeks to mobilize young people for a culture of human rights to combat hate speech. The advantage of the No Hate Speech Movement is that it fights all levels and types of hate speech, sending a clear message about expected behavior to perpetrators. ‘Solidarity Activist Camp’ is was build on the interactive workshops, experience and ideas shared spaces, inter-cultural learning activities and inputs about No Hate Speech Movement with clear focus on youth empowerment. We believe that young people who took part in this project became ambassadors for NHSM and social change in their communities, countries and internationally.

The main objectives of  Solidarity Activists Camp were:

1. Mobilizing youth activists and challenging racism, religious intolerance and islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, disablism and all forms of intolerance;

2. Presenting a counter narrative that fights the prevalence and tacit acceptance of hate speech in all its forms – ensuring that no minority group is left out even when conflict arises between minority groups such as differences based on religion, sexual orientation, membership of particular ethnic groups, etc;

3. Looking at ‘how we can build solidarity across all marginalized groups in our activist work’.

Visual outcomes of this project will be shared in 2016/ 2017 during Action Days of NHSM campaign, as participants developed videos, photos and of-line activities. Thus, our first video was launched in Vilnius during a conference ‘Integration of Refugees through Youth Work in Lithuania’ and shared on social networks. What would you do? 

 Please help us share this video to rise awareness. Thank you!

Young people about ‘Solidarity Activist Camp’ experiences

p1280858     Lorna Costelloe (Ireland)  

Attending the Youth Exchange in Lithuania is something I honestly say has changed my life. Meeting so many young people that are determined to change the world for the better could not have been anything but a positive, empowering and life changing experience and it has reminded me why I became involved in the No Hate Speech Movement, why I believe that working together we can change the world and why I believe in the power of youth activism.

Young activists can be overlooked at times, but every single person that I meet at the Solidarity Activists Movement camp was overflowing with enthusiasm, ideas and a thirst for change. None of us are ever too young to change the world, and the level of empowerment that I have gained from attending me has taught me that the only limits we do have are those we impose on ourselves. Learning about each country’s individual culture has allowed me to both be reminded of how lucky I am to have the rights in my country that I do, as well as how much further we can come.

Discrimination is something that each person encounters growing up, regardless of where they’re from. For each person that discrimination is different, and how they react to that discrimination shapes them as well as the others surrounding them. For me, I believe that discrimination is unacceptable, and that if I can reduce that discrimination, even by the smallest amount then my life has been worthwhile.

Growing up I’ve encountered people who believe that because I’m a woman I’m less capable than them, or who believe that being a member of the LGBT* community means I’m not entitled to the same rights or same experiences as them. In the past this has been demoralizing and made me wonder how can I change this. However, I’ve also learned that this can change, and many people who believed this in the past are now steadily campaigning for change alongside me.

The hard work and determination I encountered during the exchange is unparalleled, and each person’s story brought something to the table. I can honestly say I learned something from each and every participant and leader. Being able to exist in a safe space for 10 days is not an opportunity that everyone gets. Being able to meet 30 incredible human beings that exemplify the very meaning of humanity is even rarer and being able to share that space with them and learn is an experience I will never forget.

The No Hate Speech Movement is so important, and the camp showed this through the results it achieved both as a whole and individually. I strongly believe that every person I met on this exchange is going to change the world and make it a better place for everyone else to live.

The quote that comes to mind when I think of my experience is “I decided to stop searching for the light. Instead, I decided to become it.” Each and every single person there is the light in this world. Each activity we participated in has enabled their light to become even brighter than it already was.

I would never refer to my experience as an emotional roller coaster. It wasn’t roller coaster, it was a steady hike to an emotional experience that I would never have believed possible. It enabled me to meet people I would otherwise never have met, tackle barriers that I wouldn’t usually encounter and do so while in a safe learning environment designed to nurture each and every one of us that attended.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to attend, and will take the tools I gained with me for the rest of my life. Attending has allowed me to realise how much good exists in the world, and how our generation is going to help make it a better place for both ourselves and those who come after us.

 

p1280921     Unanimous (Lithuania)

We say Sharing is Caring but I am not sure are we have to Share everything and definitely we don’t wanna share everything what happened in our lives or how we feel. It’s really hard to talk about myself as a victim of hate speech.

I think most of hate speech, bullying and mobbing happened in middle school. That 4-6 years was worst time in my life. Sometimes I had days then I even don’t wanna get up from bed and only thing on my mind was maybe I need commit a suicide but I never did that I don’t know why maybe because I am to weak for that. I think the hardest thing was that I was alone. Nobody to tell how I fell. Have to deal with hate speech in young age and not have anyone to tell about that is so hard thing so you fall in depression but you do not realize that. Somebody can tell how about parents or friends you can tell them but I don’t know in that time not enough friends and tell parents that thing is not for me I better say so stranger but not parents or friends.

After middle school I change schools and meet some amazing people who give some hope for life. High school was much better but trying fight my feelings about hate speech alone is not that easiest thing you feel lonely, hopelessly and so sad inside, sometimes feels you are alone and nobody care about you.

Let’s talk about today. Today I think I don’t have any hate speech or something similar but is not easy just forget 6 years of your life and still today I feel effect of hate speech. As much I can I try just go outside to run away from my thoughts because even today then I have a lot of stress or something I have feel lonely, hopelessly and have thoughts about suicide. As most people say first thing to heal is admit you ill. So couple weeks before coming to project I admitted to myself I have depression and that is probably because of hate speech in middle school. When I start to think I finished middle school seven years ago so in depression I have to be at least ten years. I don’t know are that is really impossible. If today I tell someone I have depression I think they do not believe because this continues so long and now I hide that so good some people do not notice that because I don’t show that side of me to anyone.

This should be about activist camp but without back story nobody will understand what I feel about camp. From first to last day is really nice to feel you are not alone in this big world trying fight hate speech. See presentations from people how they fight hate speech and how much they did amazing work let you feel world is not dead and still in the world we have good people. For me this camp feel almost like restart of my life. Of course is not easy to forget everything what was but camps like this makes day go more easier because you know there is some people who really care and trying to do something about hate speech. I am really thankful to have opportunity meet everyone in this project because everyone is so amazing and doing so much good work. I don’t even know how to express myself in words to say we need such projects as much as we can make it to spread message of projects like this.

p.s. Nobody know this part of my life but because of project like i fell I can open my self. I think there no enough words in any language to express how I really feel and how much we really need projects like this. Also my English grammar and writing is not the best but I tried do best I can.

 

p1280789      Happymore Mutyoro (Ireland)

First of all I’m not a man of many words but…The events of July 22 in Norway are the reasons that brought me to Lithuania in the first place. This has led to world wide activism.

What happened at the Solidarity Camp in Lithuania has been a life changer. Not only in my life but in the lives of every individual that lost their lives in Norway that day. Before the camp I didn’t even know what online activists was but I went away not only knowing but as an online activist.This means responsibility for others around me.

I made myself a promise that I will do everything I can possible to spread the word and be the best activist I possibly can. I learned so much in 10 days about the big bad world than I have in my whole life. I feel amazing and I will encourage my friends to be aware and to be activists themselves. More people should join the campaign and get our voices heard.

 

p1280919     Ann Takács (Hungary) 

I’ve participated some exchanges and trainings before but only a few of them had a real impact on me. This YOUTH exchange was definitely one of those unique ones I will never forget.

I already said this but I cannot believe it this was “only” a youth exchange. Everybody took this as seriously from the very first moment as it sometimes never happen at a training course with expert youth workers. We worked hard on our campaigns, videos, flash-mob, etc. Our hate fighter team was/is a miracle. It’s still hard to believe that it’s possible to get love people in such a short time. Then I was thinking the No Hate Speech Movement actually is not about hate, it’s about love. We fight against hate to reach a peaceful society living in love. And our small group showed me that even if it’s a week it’s possible to live in peace and love, and it’s so easy . 

I’m grateful to Erasmus+, Eurobug, Aiste, Alessandra and Ümit to give us the opportunity to get to know each other and the movement. I’m sure I made friends in Panevezys (well, in the middle of nowhere) and we’re going to meet again. This week was that inspiring for me, I putted on my hate fighter uniform (t-shirt and badge) and participated in another international seminar/conference on countering hate. I have a lot of ideas such as youth exchange, human rights workshops in my local community and so on… Thank you for giving me a new purpose or let’s say aim of my life. Hate Fighter Panka is ready to act and react!

 

p1280889     Giuseppe Quattrone (Italy)

Thank you all! This camp was an incredible experience for me.
I met so many great guys, full of desire to do something, to change the world, to share themselves, their weaknesses, their fears, but mostly their strengths with the others. I learned a lot from all of you, you were a great inspiration to me, and made me believe that I can do more in my life. As I said during the camp, I immediately felt comfortable with all of you; I’m not usually an extroverted person with the strangers, but everything was easy with you from the first day, it seemed to be with my family or with my old friends. I’ll bring a little piece of each one of you with me, and I wish you the best for the future. Thank you again.

 

p1280806      Ahmed Ismail Hassan (Egypt/Poland)

I don’t know what to say after the previous posts, but I want to say that these few days were one of the most important days of living abroad and definitely my life. 

Few minutes after arrival I found myself talking to almost everyone <3. I also feared not being originally from Europe would be some kind of awkward but now I think like I am super naive to think like that. Those few days restored me and acquainted me more knowledge that was severely lacked in human rights. When I think about day before coming and hesitating about going or not I feel like I wanna take time machine and punch myself for even thinking about not coming  #NO_HATE_SPEECHI really love you all people, I am looking forward to meeting you all again. Thanks Aiste Slajute again.

 

p1280883     Mark Bodor (Hungary)

As far as I know mathematics has always been an important part of creativity. The logical way of thinking that it provides, helps a lot in everyday life. But what does it have to do with the topic online activism?
Lets say we do a bit more than expected during a year instead of 1 just 1.01. The difference is barely noticable, but if we repeat it every day the same way, it has a huge impact since 1.01365=37.783. However if we do a bit less than average the same impact is to be seen in an other way since 0.99365= 0.0255, which is not needed to be explained really low.

To be active takes nothing but the determination that we want to do something, and the Erasmus + project takes initiative in creating the conditions for it. We are 37 people from 6 countries with versatile backgrounds, different experiences and we have the chance to share stories, knowledge and methods of handling, preventing and standing up against hate speech. You may wonder why is it useful? Well, it can be answered in many ways but the shortest one is to see that 37.7579 difference between people being motivated or demotivated.

In case I do not want to explain it shortly, I can mention the cultural awareness, for instance to understand why the people from Turkey do not eat pork. The appreciation of our work, that we do, the consciousness of not being provoked by propaganda and the happiness of having friends everywhere. I can go further with the examples. Making tiramisu with an Italian team is a real adventure, as well as knowing their sign language, gestures and being able to learn a few words from them. Or simply prove that Poland is indeed a friend of Hungary. Polak vengjer dwa bratankwi. How would it be possible to forget the smile of the Lithuanian people as we are communicating in a shop, on the bus or on the streets? Last but not least, who could not be happy to listen to and have a few Irish ‘lads’ around to sing at every possible moment, even when 80+40 is not 180. There are experiences and beauties in every country, and if you ever want to laugh just think about people pronouncing the names of Hungarian cities.
And these are only the free time activities. Have you ever wondered how different and still similar are we at the same time? Everybody likes music, wants to be loved, wants to enjoy a conversation where they can freely express their opinion.We are all humans and there should be no other reason needed to respect each other. I think that is the most important message that we all learnt for a life. Just check the pictures and videos what we and many other enthusiastic people have made in No Hate Speech Movement!  It surely worth a minute or more.If you are interested you can contact the online activists anytime. Just try to think about how satisfying can it be to look around in a room, or an event, on a concert that you organised, worked hard for and see that 37.7579 you did. Because we are all worth having the chance for that.

Photos from Solidarity Activist Camp